Gifts for Young Kids @ Christmas : my take

big-sisterMost of our 3-year-old's favorite things aren't things. She likes painting and hiking, racing and bike riding, baking and card-making. She's never really formed affinities with objects nor does she get particularly excited about playing with toys. She would much rather "exercise" in the front yard or "go barefooting" or chase the sunset.

little-sister-nov-2009Our 8-month-old, of course, is equally disenchanted by all of the bling-bling baby gadgets and toys in the aisles at Target. She much prefers to laugh as her big sister jumps on the bed or to go for walks with the breeze blowing through her hair.

This way of living, this state-of-BEing is something that we have intentionally nurtured.

For example, we are extremely choosy about the gifts that we give our daughters at Christmas or on their birthdays. Sometimes, we opt to not BUY them anything at all (GASP!).

That doesn't mean we don't GIVE them anything. We give them plenty of love, hugs, kisses, tickles, memories, and...things that money can't buy.

When we do make purchases, we tend not to give them the typical Toys R Us fare (blah). Instead, we select handmade and/or practical products...or, better yet, "experiential" products that require a certain degree of interaction and reflection.

Here is our reasoning:

1. We DON'T want to encourage "excess." Oftentimes when my husband and I go to dinner at the homes of friends' and acquaintances, we are taken aback by all of the "stuff." Bookshelves and toy boxes and closets and floors...overflowing. Our typical response to such an evening is actually opposite of the "keeping up with the joneses" mentality. We usually walk away with the desire to live even more simply, to have LESS.

Simplicity allows ample room for imagination and creativity. I have discovered that rooms full of toys and media actually tend to detract from quality time, from innovation, and from happiness.

As it is, our girls receive plenty of gifts from family members on special occasions so adding yet another toy would be madness.

2. We DON'T want to encourage commercialism. Several months ago, my husband took our 3-year-old daughter to Walgreens to buy a new toothbrush. When they returned home, he recounted how the cashier had asked our daughter who was on her new toothbrush. She looked at the brush and then back up at the cashier, and said quite confidently, "A Girl!" "But who is the girl?," the cashier persisted. "A girl with brown hair," she said observantly. The "girl" was Dora.

Since we watch a very minimal amount of TV, my daughter probably wouldn't be able to tell you who most "characters" are. Shockingly, she doesn't know who the Disney princesses are (She's just now beginning to differentiate between a few of them because we have started reading Disney books), she's never heard of SpongeBob, and she doesn't know what a Barbie is.

We like it that way. When we DO buy clothes or toys or toothbrushes, we try our very hardest to stay away from characters and branding (which is yet another reason that we are contemplating a switch to cloth diapers, by the way...it's pretty much impossible to find disposables that aren't plastered with Pooh, Buzz Lightyear, or Sleeping Beauty).

3. We DON'T want to spend money unnecessarily. Since our girls are very young, they are as mesmerized by flowers, rocks, and ice cream cones as they are by toys and electronic gadgets. In fact, I am quite certain they actually prefer the former to the latter.

Think about it. Will your 2-year-old be more thrilled by the leaf you found while out exploring or by the sweater/DVD/talking doll that you bought? Sometimes less expensive (or free) gifts are the very best for young ones: a cupcake, a collage of magazine cut-outs, a small stack of quarters, tickets to the local museum, etc.

When our kids are older, we may feel differently. For now, however, it seems silly (and downright frivolous) to dedicate our hard-earned dollars to toys and gadgets for a baby and preschooler when they are just as excited about the process of unwrapping the gift as they are by what is inside.

4. We DO want to champion the importance of people rather than things. THINGS are so overrated. Things get tossed aside and put under the bed and - eventually - given away. People stick around. People matter. As such, the gift of time is a thousand times more valuable than the most expensive present.

5. We DO want to make memories rather than allowing presents to shape occasions. Instead of concentrating on presents, I think it's fun to focus in on special experiences. Rather than purchasing a gift, plan a special camping trip or a fancy dress-up dinner or a picnic in the backyard. Spending money on good hiking boots or brilliant watercolors or ingredients for making a cake (WITH your child) is money that is well spent.

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I am interrupting my Christmas Gift Guide to write this because you may end up wondering why the gifts in my children's category are somewhat unconventional. This post shares the reason. It is because I am uninspired by Elmo Live, Zhu Zhu Pets, Twilight Barbie, and The Littlest Pet Shop. Truth be told, I wouldn't take those toys if they were offered to me for free because it doesn't fit our family's philosophy (oh, wait...a lot of them WERE offered to me for free...and I turned them down).

The gift ideas that I will offer are going to be practical, handmade, and/or geared to the whole family. Stay tuned...

YOUR TURN: What kind of gifts do you give your kids on Christmas?

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52 comments on “Gifts for Young Kids @ Christmas : my take”

  1. Ok, so I forgot a pair of Sponge Bob slippers came with a lot of shoes I purchased and we just put Super Mario Bros. wall decals in the playroom. For some reason, the decals didn't register as characters in my mind. I kind of put them up more for me for nostalgia :).

  2. I almost feel bad for owning some toys that are plastic and for featuring branded toys in my gift guide, but it's for a good cause. I am fond of wooden toys and creativity kits for sure. We love Melissa & Doug. We don't push characters. When I was a little girl, my room was decorated in Mickey Mouse, but that didn't happen until 5th grade. Even then, I wasn't really a character type of gal. Jayden has a stuffed Mickey from a trip and I think that's it as characters are concerned. Since he's too young to even understand the concept of gift giving, we haven't bought him anything but clothes. His grandparents have bought him some things. They usually ask before purchasing for him. We requested clothes, pjs, a mini vacuum, digital camera, and books.

    Questions:
    As frequent visitors to Disney, do you think the girls will eventually develop a love for the characters? If they do, how will you curb the craving?

    Have you tried Seventh Generation disposables? We use those as well as cloth.

  3. hello iam a mom of 4 boys and i have know money to get christmas girts for my 4 boys they are 5,4,3,and 2 i love my boys and i dont know what to till them. my 5 year old is asking for a lot and i dont know what to till them plz help me.

  4. With the festive season of Christmas closing in many of us take the calm organized approach in knowing exactly what your loved ones and friends wish for. The gifts are probably already wrapped, tagged and stored away, waiting for the 25th to hopefully bring a little joy and big smile to the recipient’s face. Others find this yearly ritual stressful and are probably too busy with their hectic life styles that for them the best way to cope is to do the mad dash for gifts on Christmas Eve. Whichever method of choice works best for you, there is still that decision in making your selection a fitting one for the lucky person in question. Once those gifts are purchased it’s just fingers crossed that duplicate items from other folk are not making their way under the tree. We all want to give and receive something special and different, not the run of the mill pair of socks that you mischievously rewrapped for your dad as an extra little prezzy.

  5. It is so hard now days with all the advertising and peer pressure ( yes, even with little kids) to NOT want to buy what the kids think they need. We give our grandkids maybe 3 gifts. Usually books and clothes. And we get them a saving bond or a share of stock.

  6. I love this philosophy but unfortunately it becomes increasingly challenging as the kids get older. However, you make me wish I'd tried harder to nurture the state of BE-ing when I had more influence. Now that they are bigger, their friends are beginning to wield more influence over there preferences. It often makes me wonder if I should have bought a farm and homeschooled. ;-)

  7. i struggle with this everytime we hit a birthday or holiday that involves gifts. my husband and i don't always see eye to eye. i live by the LESS IS MORE philosophy.
    this year we are doing half and half. i am putting together a photo album for my older two and putting pictures in it for them that they can do whatever they want with. Pictures of them as babies and with us or family members.
    I also am working on their own "treasure" boxes. i want to give them a space where they can keep their special drawings or that heart shaped rock.
    i'd like to use some of the Christmas fund money to purchase some nice frames for some of their unique art pieces that we can hang in their rooms.

  8. I can't wait to start reading the Little House on the Prarie series with my kids (my husband has recently started reading the Narnia books to them, so I know they are well on their way to listening to chapter books!). We have a couple of Little House picture books that are the perfect introduction to the series. One of them is Christmas in the Big Woods. It is great because the kids get a stick of peppermint and some mittens (and Laura gets a new doll) AND they are totally thrilled with their new presents! So this year because the grandparents usually spoil our children, we'll be going light on gifts, a new book for each of them and a new homemade apron for each of them!

  9. We are so very much on the same page in so many ways! TIME is the most critical gift that can be given. Sure it is fun to spend time playing with great toys and electronic gadgets (we love our family bowling nights or rock/country band nights on the Wii or PS - toys more for M&D anyway :)), but if my kids had the option of playing with Mom and Dad vs. getting a WAY COOL toy to play with by themselves, the people present would win out every time! We often look for gifts that will give us something else to do together and thus give our kids something fun with their favorite people!

  10. avoiding the excess is so great. i wish i could be better at it, but i'm not. i remember such great memories of playing with "little people" that i got my oldest all of the little people buildings i thought she would love. i love stuffed animals and remember arranging many of them neatly on my bed- so i have bought my girls stuffed animals when i'm away on business, or if it is a holiday. do they play with them as much as i did- no but they are recently embracing them more and more. soon, i'm going to have to put aside my nostalgia and give our "excess" away.

  11. While I completely agree with your sentiment, I was surprised to see overflowing bookshelves as something that takes you aback. I think reading is just as important as playing, maybe more. Sure, you can take books out of the library, but I hope my children enjoy books so much that they want to read them over and over again and that for their birthdays and for Christmas they ask for books. I will encourage, and look forward to, overflowing bookshelves.

  12. You say it all so well! Yes, yes, and double yes!!! I've faced criticism and applause for my theories on children and toys, but I'm not backing down.
    I request no presents on birthday invitations and mostly I politely discourage gifts at other times of the year. I'm very lucky to have a family who really understands and agrees with my ideas. And, although some of my friends think I'm mommy meanest, they mostly respect my wishes.
    I am passionate about giving my child quality experiences and even quality toys, but there is such a thing as too much. And, sadly many people don't recognize what too much really is. Guests are often shocked that Levi's toys for the most part fit into a couple of small baskets and a small cabinet. I've even had people ask if I was sure I didn't need more toys. But, I want to encourage my child's imagination not his desire for consumption.

  13. I agree that usually they are more interested in the boxes at this age.
    We are even doing her birthday party at a craft store. That way she can have fun coloring and with stickers.

  14. We try not to give too much either. This year my daughter, 1.5 years old, will be getting a dress up box from us. I have been gathering things for a while at yard sales, consignment sales, and I even raided my closet at my parents' house to get some fun stuff. I think it will be something that will last her a long time and isn't covered in plastic characters.

    My main problem is how to deal with family. My daughter is the 8th grandchild on my husband's side of the family so we get LOTS of hand-me-downs. While I love getting clothes, most of the toys I don't want because they are plastic and covered in characters. Plus I want to limit the stuff in our house. We had been able to curb the problem until now because we live about 2000 miles away. But we are moving in a few weeks and will be only an hour (by car) away from the family. They are already plotting all the toys they are bringing to our house. I have told them we are instituting the one in one out rule very soon, so we won't be taking too much. Hopefully that will help.

    You should definitely consider cloth diapers! We use them and I wouldn't have it any other way. If you have any questions feel free to let me know.

  15. Our kids get a lot of stuff for our large family. For a number of birthdays or for Christmas they have received nothing from us. They didn't even notice.
    But when we find something that just seems to "fit" their age, we get it. Some of my favorites: a swing, wooden Play-Doh tools, a large digging/loading/scooping tractor for the yard, train tracks. And a special book that reflects an experience we had together or a trip or a hope and dream (and I always write a dedication).

  16. We recently went to a birthday party for one of Mikayla's preschool friends, and I have always thought that Mikayla had too many toys but boy they had so many toys it was hard to walk in the bedroom. The mom even said that they got rid of half of the toys when they moved into their new house a couple of months ago!

    I like to buy Mikayla the science experiments and art projects. She gets the most out of those toys.

  17. I agree on trying hard to stay away from characters and branding - that means buying toothbrushes at Whole Foods and no characters on clothing.
    When my daughter was 9 months at her first Christmas, I did not buy anything figuring she would have plenty. Everything thought that was a great idea - except her 4 and 6 year old cousins!

  18. WONDERFUL, steph. THANK YOU.
    we have the same policies for our kids. we have zero room in our house right now for more 'stuff' - sometimes its a blessing to have a very small house! - and we also try to give experiences instead of things. we give lost of tickets - to sporting events, shows or even combine with others to give things like zoo memberships and such.
    (those are our favorite gifts to get as well!!! ;-)

  19. Seriously...thanks for posting this! I am SO with you about the gifts, plastic, garbage, blah, blah, blah of Christmas. We are getting more and more excited about what we can do to help OTHERS this season. Make some meals, make some coupons for help with someone's kids, housecleaning, etc. We are going to give to World Vision. I am SO excited about being able to provide a family with a goat or a cow or a well...it is so hard to choose! I could go on and on about the commercialization of Christmas rather than the reason and WHO it is we are celebrating, but I will spare you! :-) Just thank you, thank you for sharing what you did here!

  20. My house is a toy explosion. My 14 month old received so much for his birthday most of which was purchased by family. When we buy him toys we try to buy things that encourage development. For his birthday we bought him a music table since he loves music and wasn't really pulling up yet. Recently we bought him a push toy since he isn't walking yet. For Christmas we are throwing around the idea of buying a wagon so we can pull him around the neighborhood and zoo. I think it is something that will encourage family time.

  21. we do the same thing! Also we do get some frowns by some family members. They always say something like "oh, poor things, every child should have lots of presents." We have gotten used to it by now. We too are trying to teach our children valuable Biblical lessons that will hopefully stay with them into adulthood.

  22. Fantastic post! We've been thinking hard about the Christmas gift question because I TOTALLY know what you mean about toys everywhere.

    Elizabeth has SO many toys already even though we haven't purchased any for her at all. We have such generous friends that we've only ever bought her diapers and one dress - clothes, toys, books etc all just appeared.

    We ended up drawing names for Christmas because we are so blessed and really don't need any more "things", so Elizabeth will only receive one gift from our extended family (not including grandparents; we realized telling them not to get gifts would be a waste of breath).

    One idea we tripped over was restricting Christmas gifts to three (since Jesus received three gifts). The idea was that each gift was based loosely on the wiseman gifts, each one on a different theme eg Frankincense is something spiritual / mental, myrhh is something physical and gold is something "fun". I can't find the link I saw it on first, but a similar variant on the theme is described here: http://www.c--h--s.com/thejesusgifts/gifts.htm. Elizabeth isn't old enough for this to make a difference and it would require grandparent cooperation (we'll have to ease them into this I suspect) but we are very intrigued by the idea!

  23. I am with you on this one! We didn't give my daughter a first birthday gift and Christmas gifts last year. She is now 1 1/2 and will get enough from Grandparents and others she won't notice any from us. I think when she is old enough to figure it out we will end up getting her one thing she wants and let other people buy her things. We don't NEED many toys and we don't have room. I also shop at consignment shops for her gifts and clothes. We have saved so much $$ this way. I do like to give her books though.

  24. We do give toys to our kids - but we are purposeful about those toys and we do have too many toys and we are working on getting better about this - we went a bit crazy for Sugar's first Christmas with toys and gadgets but by her birthday we were really thinking about what we were getting and being purposeful about those items.

    I agree with what you say here - and am looking forward to your gift ideas for kids! I definitely need help in redirecting in this area!

  25. I was a little worried about what gifts our son would receive this year for his first Christmas, and it turns out that his grandmas have it figured out so well! One is crocheting slippers for him, the other has a couple of classic books picked out. I couldn't be happier! He's not even 1 yet and we already have too many toys!

  26. like Naomi, I really wish I was better about this. My kids have so many toys it really makes me sick. They get so much from family and friends and sadly us that it's overwhelming for them!

    The brakes must go on!

    your girls are very lucky to have you as a mommy!

  27. I've been overwhelmed by the amount of stuff my kids have amassed in five years... I kind of wish I had been more of a dictator about saying only wooden toys or something because the plastic avalanche is frightening. I definitely prefer it when the kids make their own toys out of sticks and rocks or when their dad carves them for them. That being said, I remember hating how my parents couldn't see how cool certain toys were so I try to be tolerant of how Roo goes off about Hannah Montana or High School Musical because her friends at kindergarten like them, even though she had never seen them. Hold it off for as long as you can!

  28. I can definitely understand and appreciate your point of view on this subject. I am the Mother of four children-ages 12, 9, 4, and 2. My husband is a pastor, and our children have grown up in church their entire lives. My two oldest children have made professions of faith, and we make a point to integrate Christ into each and every part of our lives.

    My children do know the characters from shows, and they do receive "commercialized" gifts on occasion. I try to raise my children to not be judgmental of others, and to be accepting of any family's personal choices, and decisions.

    I pray that I can become a less "excessive" Mother, and that I can raise my children in a less "cluttered" home. Btw, I have many commercialized giveaways on my site right now, and I'm very thankful that God has provided these opportunities for me, that have provided my children Christmas gifts at no cost, and we are able to share this abundance with other families.

  29. I can't wait.

    For the most part our girls will be getting some Melissa and Doug toys (some ball hammer thing, lacing cards, etc.) from my parents as well as a doctors kit. I'm making my youngest a dolly and sleeping bags for the two of them. I do want a realistic looking phone for my youngest and probably a little doodle b/c there's been fighting over the one we have.

  30. Great post. I agree about the commercialization of Christmas and children's toys in general. I'd love to shield my daughter from this-but she stays with my mother in law during the day, I know she knows about different tv characters, it bugs me. We do control it at home and purchase only blocks, musical instruments, etc. and not in huge portions. I'm thinking for Christmas that we might buy her either some costume or possibly a tea set. We play tea now and it is so fun!

  31. I've been wondering about this for this year. My little one will only be 4 months old at Christmas. She won't have a care in the world about what gifts she has under the tree, but will really enjoy listening to the sounds of ripping paper! We are planning on giving her just a very few presents, mostly books.

  32. We don't usually buy our kids any commercialized toys at Christmas- (we actually don't give them much at Christmas at all) - they get something small in their stocking like their favorite candy treat and then usually something I search for them specifically, often on ebay. Most often we give them new drawing books, crayons, pajamas,a new chapter book for their reading level, and sometimes something they were REALLY asking for like a new Lego set or something along those lines that they can all share (but this year they will not be getting more Legos!) I think we'll instead be going to the Science & Industry Museum for a day and they can pick something in the gift shop (that will be our big family gift.)

    Steph

  33. great post!! we are usually creative about gifts - i feel like my son has so much already (although i don't even know where it all came from!) he has gotten some commercial stuff because i've won it on blogs & then saved it for birthdays, christmas etc =) it's hard now that he's in preschool and WAY into hotwheels, he wants a hot wheels track like no other....if he'll actually get one that's a different story =)

  34. We give three gifts because Jesus received three gifts. It is a great way to keep our budget down and not get too much. Now sayig that I cannot control the grandparents and they go crazy. Not sure what to do with that. I try to talk them out of it, but it doesn't really work.

  35. I agree that our kids get a lot from my parents, in-laws, etc. at holidays and birthdays. I never tell them, though, NOT to get something because that would take the fun out their purchase for them. I always give suggestions on items my kids could use, and I've noticed that my family has a hard time giving clothing or tickets for something as opposed to toys. So, thats where my husband and I like to fill in. This year we are taking our kids skiing so Santa is bringing snow boots, etc. But, they WILL have character on them because I am totally guilty of giving into the commercialization. I don't see the big deal with that. It makes them happy and we don't have characters on everything they own. But, the won't be excited over boots, they'll be excited over Spiderman boots, etc. Especially since they don't really know what skiing is!

    I look forward to your suggestions!!

  36. GREAT post! It's so nice to know that there are other families out there that share our viewpoint. We don't even do Santa in the traditional sense... we follow this philosophy http://www.christian-mommies.com/ages/elementary-schoolers/old-saint-nick-needs-a-modern-makeover/ and play the "Santa Game." We limit gifts to just a few. For my 2 yr olds b'day, we took a family trip to the zoo. For my 7 year olds b'day, he got a basketball goal and got to invite a special friend over for his first sleepover. Yes, the older one got a gift, but it will give him hours of fun OUTSIDE in the sunshine + lots of EXERCISE! :) We are very minimalist and sometimes I feel pressure from family to buy stuff. But after 7 years of parenting, i've become very comfortable with my own stance!

    Also, you'll love cloth diapers!!! I started with my youngest son at 4 or 5 months old (now 25 months). If I had to do it over, I'd buy lots of prefolds with covers, a handful of FuzziBunz (the medium size fit him then AND now!!!) for on the go. Bumgenious makes organic diapers that snap that are probably good. I don't like the BG that velcro... the velcro doesn't last and my son learned quickly how to take them off! Good luck on your cloth diaper journey if you choose it! :)

  37. Very timely post, Stephanie. Thanks for the great reminders. My children too spend so little time playing with toys - they'd so much rather be "doing" and "creating" & I need to keep that in mind when Christmas shopping! (and birthdays - we have two in December!)

  38. We give in to the commercial stuff sometimes (we have Dora, Barbie, and Disney Princess stuff, etc), but we also try to teach balance. It warms our hearts when our daughter tells us it's time to pass down some of her toys to her sister and "give the rest to other kids who don't have toys." She knows especially when it's Christmas or birthday time that she should give some away because she's so fortunate and is about to get more, and again, some kids don't get lots of presents for birthdays and Christmas. This year for Christmas we're trying to stay away from as many toys, though, so we're looking at longer-lasting, useful things. We will probably get a trampoline for both girls to share (good exercise and fun for the whole family!); a bank with slots for saving, spending, and giving for the big kid (to teach money management); and wooden puzzles for the little kid.

  39. We've told Grandparents to limit gist to two per child this year. I hope they stick with that request. Not only will it keep the excess toy mess to a minimum, and help their wallet, but mostly it'll teach the boys that Christmas isn't supposed to be all about presents. I don't want them growing up with an entitlement attitude.

    Sure, I get it, Christmas is fun for children. I remember being super excited for presents. We aren't taking that from them. But two presents from each Grandparent is four gifts right there - plus from the Uncles and us. They'll still have plenty.

    It should be more about the memories. I cannot remember ONE single toy I just "had" to have as a child that I received on Christmas. But I remember all the traditions we made and kept each year.

    Heck, I can't even remember what I got last year! Or what the kids got. And we likely don't even have those toys any longer.

    Nell

  40. We keep to the holiday tradition of "Something you want, something you need, something to wear, and something to read"...It keeps things simple and sweet especially since the something to wear is always new x-mas pjs. And of course everything within that is either handmade, vintage, and/or organic/eco so that helps too. I am getting a couple little things for her stocking too this year though. Stocking time was always really special for me growing up so I want that tradition in our family too, but it'll mostly be simple things like rocks, apple, orange, and maybe some stickers and and other little things. I really agree though - buy only handmade, eco, wooden (NO plastic:), and high quality...they'll last alot longer, be prettier, and of course be safer.

  41. I agree, we have went overboard a lot before with our children and I have learned a lot from spending money on toys. We spent $50 on a Rocket(Little Einsteins) toy last year, that my husband thought was so neat, my then 3 year old was minimally interested at best so I said no on it at first, then he pimped it to her so much she finally was asking for it so I said fine and told him to grab one. She played with it once...promptly lost all the pieces and was was left was thrown away 6 months later. This year is tight for us and my husband is kind of worried that we won't get them enough but I am relieved because they have enough toys they don't need much more, I think we should stock pile lay doh, something they love but can never seem to keep from drying out and art supplies such as crayola paint because they also love to paint...everything...even our 19 year old white cat got a taste of it, she was orange for a day or two. This year the only thing my 4 year old asked for continually has been a sick baby with a thermometer and stethoscope and stuff. It was $26 so I was thinking she might not get it but then I saw it go on sale the other day for $15 so I told my husband to pick one up the other day for her. Her Christmas list was very short and included things she wanted to get for her sister as well. She also asked for pajamas which is kind of nice because usually kids don't ask for clothes. She was telling me the other day though that she needed new pajamas because her old ones are getting small and she put them on her list. Anyway I have learned my lesson about spending so much on toys, not to mention they get tired of opening presents after a while anyway and like you said other people will be buying them presents as well. You are right though kids like the free things best of all, I think buying the presents is one of those things that is mostly for the parents and gets rubbed off on the children as they get older. I think it is just the thought that you as a parent want to provide them with everything they could ever want or need and you just go overboard with it. It is good you pointed this out so more people can stop and think about this. Like you said making holiday cookies and breads with them can be a better experience than getting presents, plus they can package them up and give them to other people and they love doing that. My daughter makes bread at her school and she is always so proud when she brings it home, if you really let them help and don't take it over they get a real sense of independence and confidence in their own abilities and that is something very important that I don't think a lot of kids get because adults under estimate their abilities. I did buy them a large lot of antique wooden blocks that my husband is going to build a castle with by the tree for Christmas, they love blocks and when I saw this on Craigslist I jumped at the chance to get them. I also just had my first batch of cloth diapers sent out to me as well I should receive them in the next few days. They are so cute! The woman I bought them from makes all kinds and has a huge selection of fabrics to choose from. She hasn't gotten her Etsy site up yet but from the pictures they look great and she is nice so hopefully the diapers will be great too. She even gave me care instructions. However I am going the cloth route because I think it will be cheaper in the long run and baby poo really doesn't faze me anymore, I have had it on my hands enough to know it washes right off with soap and water, so I think I won't have a problem cleaning the cloth diapers. Well now that I have written an essay and probably strayed from topic I think I'll call it to a close lol.

  42. I agree with you completely.

    When my oldest was 3, all of our toys fit neatly into a basket that sat in the family room. However, it does get more difficult as your children get older.

    My kids are so blessed because I have sold Discovery Toys (almost) their whole lives. As kids are learning to build, create and discover the world around them, they need toys that challenge their thinking skills, engage their creativity and spark their imagination. Discovery Toys are very simple and the simpler the toy, the more opportunity the CHILD has to play! (The toy doesn't do everything for them.)

    Anyway, people always remark about the way my kids play. They can play for hours, without asking for help, or what's next or what can we do. You will be surprised, as your kids get into the school years, to find how many kids really don't know HOW to play because they have been entertained so much of their life by TV, video games, Leapsters, etc.

    Character toys drive me nuts, but we do have plenty of those at this point, now that my oldest is 9. We also don't watch much TV or even have cable, but they need to know to some extent about the things their peers are into! I don't want them to live in a bubble.

    I'll be interested to see your list.

  43. Stephanie-
    I can relate. But I think my reasons are more for my extreme dislike of clutter. All of our toys are in a bin in a closet under the stairs in the basement. I only bring them out for playdates and my son is a-ok with that. I don't know about you but I think this has fostered an extremely creative imagination. I haven't seen any other children his age with imaginations as detailed as he describes.

    Funny story related to not knowing popular characters. My son was looking through some Christmas catalog when he suddenly got excited. I came over to look and he said, "Mommy look at this cool robot!" It was Buzz Lightyear. He had no idea who he was. I tried to tell him the "robot's" real name but he kept mispronouncing "Buzz THE Light of year." I think I liked it better before I told him the real name and he used his own imagination.

    His birthday is next Saturday and my husband and I are giving him a bike. I'm so excited to see his reaction! It will be a good way to pass our long Minnesota winter riding that thing around in the basement.

  44. Great post, Stephanie. I totally agree with you. My son and I enjoy spending time together coloring, reading, and crafting. Actually, I update the decor in my son's room by updating magazine cut-out collages. Inexpensive and it doesn't matter if he destroys the paper...we'll just make another!

    I prefer to find good used children's books, sometimes used educational toys that require thought and increased fine motor skills that can grow with the child for several years of creative play. Our son is usually inundated with so many things from grandparents, that we tend to abstain from purchasing products at Christmas. But hey, if he NEEDS something like new socks, or a warm hat that fits, we're all over that.

  45. Wonderful post. I couldn't agree more. This article needs to be ready by every parent of young children, particularly this time of year.
    My son is enamored by leaves, sticks, and rocks. A walk to the pond, collecting rocks on the way to throw into the pond, is one of his favorite daytime activities. That, and running free and wild through a soccer field or down the walking path, saying "I race you, mommy!"
    We live in a small home, and I am thankful for that, as it forces us to simplify. Honestly, the less you have the more free you feel (at least we have found that to be true). Experiences and memories are priceless, but material "things" usually just end up cluttering your life. So we focus on fun times together as a family. I think there is nothing a child wants more than a secure, fun, and loving home. No toy or gadget even dares to compare with that.

  46. i nod my head to every single thing you have said here. in simplicity we find joy, in a decluttered home we find space to move and to breathe.
    when i do buy for my little one i choose with intention...always buying those toys and books that i know will remain with us for years, perhaps generations.
    and when buying anything i always ask myself: "do i really need this?"
    x

  47. I love this post! I totally relate to going to others houses and coming away wanting to get rid of even more stuff at our house. Our children do have toys but we have mangaged to keep it way below the average.

    For Christmas we do give gifts but our rule is that everything has to fit in a stocking (normal Christmas stocking size) and some of the things that go in there is food (special trail mix, etc.) and other practical stuff like clothing. Almost all the rest is handmade.

    For Birthdays we do give gifts also but again we often have handmade and practical and not much in the toy area.
    Our kids are very happy too! Some things we do give a lot for gifts around our house are books (never to many good books!) and games. We enjoy spending time together as a family playing games.

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